• The keto diet can help patients with diabetes control their symptoms by reducing carbohydrates and replacing calories with fat.

  • The new company Virta Health has led pilot programs that show that blood sugar levels can be reduced to prediabetic levels in keto.

  • However, some experts are concerned about the possible unknown side effects of long-term keto, including cholesterol levels.

  • Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.


According to research, the high-fat and low-carb ketogenic diet can treat patients with diabetes.

Companies like Virta Health are testing the diet as a treatment for veterans, in association with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). UU., Based on evidence that the diet can control blood sugar and relieve symptoms.

Is that how it works.

Keto may reduce diabetes symptoms by controlling blood glucose, but it is not a cure.

Diabetes is an inability to balance blood sugar. When you eat carbohydrates, the body converts them to glucose, which increases blood sugar. Normally, the body can produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar levels, but in the case of diabetics, the body does not produce enough (in type 1 diabetes) or has become resistant to its effects (type diabetes two).

The reduction of carbohydrates handles the problem at the source by preventing blood sugar from increasing in the first place, according to Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a professor at the University of West Virginia School of Medicine, reservist of the Air Force USA UU. And marathon runner who has published several studies on keto and diabetes.

“The most shocking thing in blood glucose is the amount of carbohydrates in your diet. The low carb diet is effective because it reduces the insulin load, ”said Cucuzzella, who is not affiliated with Virta, in an interview with Insider. “Insulin is the main switch.”

Medications, including insulin injections, can help mitigate the symptoms of diabetes by helping to control blood sugar levels. But the keto can help patients reduce medications, said Dr. Sarah Hallberg, medical director of Virta. Eating carbohydrates increases blood sugar, but eating fats does not. It means that diabetic patients can get their daily calories without using insulin to balance blood sugar levels.

“The standard treatment places people on a street of diabetes progression in only one direction, with a temporary pharmaceutical treatment that will have to be added,” Hallberg told Insider. “We are able to give people another way on the other side by bringing blood sugar to a non-diabetic range while reducing and eliminating medication.”

However, that does not mean that the keto can cure diabetes.

Virta refers to its treatment as a “reversal” of diabetes. In simple terms, this means that the disease is in remission, Cucuzzella said. The treatment only works as long as the low carb diet is maintained. As soon as carbohydrates are reintroduced, the same problems arise with blood sugar and insulin.

What makes a good keto meal plan

A ketogenic diet is any eating plan that pushes the body into a state of ketosis, when it begins to produce substances called ketones, explained Dr. Ethan Weiss, cardiologist and founder of a ketone detection device. (Weiss previously served as Virta’s medical advisor).

“Keto” generally refers to eating plans in which the majority of daily calories come from fats, some proteins, and 5% to 30% of daily carbohydrate calories. It is often described as a way to lose weight without sacrificing rich foods such as butter, bacon and hamburgers.

People with diabetes could reduce their carbohydrate intake to just 30 grams per day and still be healthy. (By way of comparison, a medium banana has approximately 27 grams of carbohydrates.)

But the key to the medical keto is to go beyond the fats, carbohydrates and proteins of macronutrients that are produced in the context of food: exactly what you eat in a day is as important as counting the amount of carbohydrates.

This is what Hallberg refers to as a “well-formulated ketogenic diet,” focused on sources of whole-food fats, and designed to reduce carbohydrates without completely eliminating the sacrifice of nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables. According to Hallberg, this means at least 5 servings a day of non-starchy vegetables, sources of healthy fats such as olive oil and definitely no bacon for every meal.

“The idea that this is all meat sticks and skies knows what else is not true,” he said.

This contrasts with some forms of keto fad, or those without medical supervision, that involve lots of bacon, cheese and even fast food, sometimes called “dirty” keto. These types of diets eliminate nutritious foods that contain carbohydrates such as starchy fruits and vegetables and replace them with low-quality fats, which is of concern to nutritionists.

Critics say “enthusiasm overcomes the evidence” when it comes to the long-term effects of the keto

It is not clear what long-term health effects the keto diet could have.

Writing in an editorial for JAMA Internal Medicine, Dr. Shivam Joshi said “enthusiasm exceeds the evidence” when it comes to keto.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group of medical experts advocating a plant-based diet, sent a letter to VA officials asking them to reconsider the association and keto treatment, based on evidence that a high diet in fat and low carb could potentially increase diabetes risks, particularly high fat saturated diets.

Skeptics have also pointed out that most of the data showing that keto can treat diabetes is based on studies directed and funded by Virta. There is hardly any concrete data on the health effects of keto after two years in the diet.

However, keto advocates have pointed out that the quality of keto health outcomes depends largely on what is included in the diet, and that focusing on healthier unsaturated fats could be a way to convey the benefits With less risks.

Weiss, as a cardiologist who follows a keto diet, said that raising “bad” cholesterol levels is indeed a potential problem for the keto. The investigation may be beginning to suggest otherwise, but Weiss said he is not yet willing to risk against conventional wisdom about saturated fats.

“There is no evidence that LDL cholesterol after the keto diet is dangerous, but I am not waiting to take advantage of that opportunity,” Weiss said. “There are many ways to make that diet, and people don’t have to eat all that saturated fat.”


Read more:

The United States government is testing the keto diet to treat veterans’ diabetes. Critics say it could have long-term health risks.

A flight attendant says that her keto diet caused a false positive in the breathalyzer test that cost her work

Study finds that keto may increase the risk of injury by weakening bones

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